Watch your step! Who can recover stair climbing independence after stroke?

Giovanni Morone, Marta Matamala-Gomez, Maria V. Sanchez-Vives, Stefano Paolucci, Marco Iosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: After discharge, most patients who have suffered a stroke remain with some limitations in their stair climbing ability. This is a critical factor in order to be independent in real-life mobility. Although there are several studies on prognostic factors for gait recovery, few of them have focused on the recovery of stair climbing. AIM: The aim of this study was to identify prognostic risk factors for the recovery of stair climbing ability in a large sample of subjects with subacute stroke. DESIGN: Observational study. SETTING: Neurorehabilitation Inpatient Unit. POPULATION: Subjects within the first month after stroke that had been admitted to an inpatient rehabilitation unit and discharged after an intensive inpatient rehabilitation. METHODS: Demographical and clinical data were collected. Barthel Index (BI), Trunk Control Test and Motricity Index (MI) scores were recorded at admission and at discharge. Patients received two daily 40-minute sessions of motor rehabilitation, six days per week, during approximately two months. Forward Binary Logistic regressions were used to identify the role of risk factors, using as dependent variables the recovery of stair climbing ability and walking ability at discharge. As independent variables we used age, gender, onset-to-admission interval, side of hemiparesis, trunk control, Motricity Index (MI), presence of obesity, presence of neglect, presence of depression, classification of cerebral infarction (total anterior circulation, partial anterior circulation, posterior circulation or lacunar infarcts), degree of independence in activities of daily living, and cognitive state, all assessed at admission. RESULTS: A total of 257 subjects were enrolled. BI-Score, MI-Score and presence of unilateral spatial neglect at admission were able to explain 83% of variance for the recovery of stair climbing ability. Subjects with a BI >40 at admission were about 17 times more likely to be able to climb stairs again than other patients, and those with MI ≥25 were about 9 times more likely than the rest. The presence of unilateral spatial neglect reduced this possibility of recovering stair climbing ability by about 5.5 times. Of these factors, only MI ≥25, together with a score at Trunk Control Test >12, significantly predicted also walking recovery. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the different prognostic factors for recovering stair climbing and walking abilities, with a major role of unilateral spatial neglect in the former. CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: There is a need for specific rehabilitation of stair climbing, also for improving the independence in activities of daily living, especially in patients who the clinical staff already knows should manage stairs in their community after being discharged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-818
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Prognosis
  • Stair climbing
  • Stroke rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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